The Caribbean island was once the destination of movie stars, mobsters, and the American elite during the 1940s and 50s before the Cuban Revolution. Since then the US has imposed an economic embargo on the country – and although traveling there is not banned, spending money there is. (Read: Unless you can eat air and sleep in the streets, travel is banned).

Now that Fidel Castro has stepped down as the president of Cuba many are waiting for their chance to experience what once was the hottest thing off the coast of Miami. The Bush administration has adamantly stated that the regime chance won’t mean an end to the embargo but there are many factors why it can’t last.

You may not be able to pack your bags now but here’s why you should get ready in a few years.

Difference Between Embargo And Travel Restrictions

The US does not have to completely end the trade embargo with Cuba to make travel there possible. Thousands of Cuban-Americans already go and spend money there every year. The lengthy visa and customs process actually costs US citizens money without stopping the flow of cash.

Raul Castro Will Make Changes

Fidel’s appointed-president brother will be under pressure from both the Cuban people and his own ego to make changes. Bolstering the travel industry already in place for (mainly) Europeans will drive the Cuban economy, make Raul look good, and put pressure on US companies to get in on the action. All of the parties involved will be driven by economics, not politics. Raul is also 76 years old, so he may not be in power for very long and Fidel can’t live forever, expect more power changes in the next few years.

Regime Change In The US

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You’ve got a 1 in 3 chance at the moment if you’re hoping that a new president in the US will change travel restrictions to Cuba. Senator Barack Obama has said that if elected the next president of the United States he would like to ease travel restrictions. No guarantee of change but the closest the idea has been to the White House since the embargo began.

Tourists And Business Owners Don’t Remember/Know Why There Is An Embargo In the First Place

The Cuban Revolution happened in 1959 and most of the people who run influential large businesses that can petition Congress don’t even know why the embargo is in place. With Fidel gone, they now have more of a case to end the embargo (beginning with easing travel restrictions). Castro may have outlived generations but keep in mind baby-boomers are on their way out. The current generation of young travelers aren’t concerned about ideology, they just want to get a good tan.

Tourists Are A Good Way To Export Ideas

Diplomats talk to politicians but tourists talk to people. Americans in Cuba would only help to empower locals who will be exchanging ideas with real Americans – not the ones they hear about. Traveling is one of the best ways to dispel stereotypes about a culture and the effect goes both ways.

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The Embargo Has Not Worked

It has been 50 years and Fidel Castro has remained in power and Cuba is still communist. Embargoes in general are ineffective and only help to keep those in power stay in power.

The desire among American travelers to visit Cuba is growing and enough time has passed to where real change may occur in the very near future. A tourism industry doesn’t really require an infrastructure, can produce a lot of revenue, and open societies up. Economics will drive the US to allow tourists to travel to Cuba in the next 5 years.

What do you think do people who want (or go) to Cuba supporting a hostile regime or do they have any positive effect? Would you go to Cuba or do you think it’s more than a decade away? Let us know in the comments, I’m really interested in what you all have to say on the topic.